|Republic of Guinea-Bissau
República da Guiné-Bissau
|Motto: Portuguese: "Unidade, Luta, Progresso"
"Unity, Struggle, Progress"
|Anthem: Portuguese: "Esta é a Nossa Pátria Bem Amada"
"This is Our Well-Beloved Motherland"
(and largest city)
|Recognised regional languages||Crioulo|
|-||President||Malam Bacai Sanhá|
|-||Prime Minister||Carlos Gomes|
|-||Declared||September 24, 1973|
|-||Recognised||September 10, 1974|
|-||National Day||September 24|
|-||Total||36,125 km2 (136th)
13,948 sq mi
|-||2010 estimate||1,647,000 (148th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2008 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2008 estimate|
|Gini (1993)||47 (high)|
|HDI (2007)||▲ 0.396 (low) (173rd)|
|Currency||West African CFA franc (
|Time zone||GMT (UTC+0)|
|Drives on the||right|
The Republic of Guinea-Bissau (pronounced /ˈɡɪni bɪˈsaʊ/; Portuguese: República da Guiné-Bissau, pronounced [ʁɛˈpublikɐ dɐ ɡiˈnɛ biˈsau]) is located in West Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west.
It covers nearly 37,000 square kilometres (14,000 sq mi) with an estimated population of 1,600,000. Formerly the Portuguese colony of Portuguese Guinea, upon independence, the name of its capital, Bissau, was added to the country's name to prevent confusion with the Republic of Guinea. The country's per-capita gross domestic product is one of the lowest in the world.
Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Gabu, part of the Mali Empire; parts of this kingdom persisted until the eighteenth century, while others were part of the Portuguese Empire. Portuguese Guinea was known also, from its main economic activity, as the Slave Coast.
Early reports of Europeans reaching this area include those of the Venetian Alvise Cadamosto's voyage of 1455, the 1479-1480 voyage by Flemish-French trader Eustache de la Fosse, and Diogo Cão who in the 1480s reached the Congo River and the lands of Bakongo, setting up thus the foundations of modern Angola, some 1200 km down the African coast from Guinea-Bissau.
Although the rivers and coast of this area were among the first places colonized by the Portuguese, since the 16th century, the interior was not explored until the nineteenth century. The local African rulers in Guinea, some of whom prospered greatly from the slave trade, had no interest in allowing the Europeans any further inland than the fortified coastal settlements where the trading took place. African communities that fought back against slave traders had even greater incentives to distrust European adventurers and would-be settlers. The Portuguese presence in Guinea was therefore largely limited to the port of Bissau and Cacheu, although isolated European farmer-settlers established farms along Bissau's inland rivers.
For a brief period in the 1790s the British attempted to establish a rival foothold on an offshore island, at Bolama. But by the 19th century the Portuguese were sufficiently secure in Bissau to regard the neighbouring coastline as their own special territory, also up north in part of present South Senegal.
An armed rebellion beginning in 1956 by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) under the leadership of Amílcar Cabral gradually consolidated its hold on then Portuguese Guinea. Unlike guerrilla movements in other Portuguese colonies, the PAIGC rapidly extended its military control over large portions of the territory, aided by the jungle-like terrain, its easily reached borderlines with neighbouring allies and large quantities of arms from Cuba, China, the Soviet Union, and left-leaning African countries.
Cuba also agreed to supply artillery experts, doctors and technicians. The PAIGC even managed to acquire a significant anti-aircraft capability in order to defend itself against aerial attack. By 1973, the PAIGC was in control of many parts of Guinea. Independence was unilaterally declared on September 24, 1973. Recognition became universal following the April 25, 1974 socialist-inspired military coup in Portugal which overthrew Lisbon's Estado Novo regime.
Luís Cabral was appointed the first President of Guinea-Bissau. Following independence local black soldiers that fought along with the Portuguese Army against the PAIGC guerrillas were slaughtered by the thousands. Some managed to escape and settled in Portugal or other African nations, one of the massacres occurred in the town of Bissorã. In 1980 the PAIGC admitted in its newspaper "Nó Pintcha" (dated November 29, 1980) that many were executed and buried in unmarked collective graves in the woods of Cumerá, Portogole and Mansabá.
The country was controlled by a revolutionary council until 1984. The first multi-party elections were held in 1994, but an army uprising in 1998 led to the president's ousting and the Guinea-Bissau Civil War. Elections were held again in 2000 and Kumba Ialá was elected president.
In September 2003, a coup took place in which the military arrested Ialá on the charge of being "unable to solve the problems." After being delayed several times, legislative elections were held in March 2004 . A mutiny of military factions in October 2004 resulted in the death of the head of the armed forces, and caused widespread unrest.
In June 2005, presidential elections were held for the first time since the coup that deposed Ialá. Ialá returned as the candidate for the PRS, claiming to be the legitimate president of the country, but the election was won by former president João Bernardo Vieira, deposed in the 1999 coup. Vieira beat Malam Bacai Sanhá in a runoff election, but Sanhá initially refused to concede, claiming that tampering occurred in two constituencies including the capital, Bissau.
Despite reports that there had been an influx of arms in the weeks leading up to the election and reports of some "disturbances during campaigning"—including attacks on government offices by unidentified gunmen—foreign election monitors labelled the election as "calm and organized". PAIGC won a strong parliamentary majority, with 67 of 100 seats, in the parliamentary election held in November 2008.
In November 2008, President Vieira's official residence was attacked by members of the armed forces, killing a guard but leaving the president unharmed. On March 2, 2009, however, Vieira was assassinated by what preliminary reports indicated to be a group of soldiers avenging the death of the head of joint chiefs of staff, General Batista Tagme Na Wai. Tagme died in an explosion on Sunday, March 1, 2009 in an assassination. Military leaders in the country have pledged to respect the constitutional order of succession. National Assembly Speaker Raimundo Pereira was appointed as an interim president until a nationwide election on June 28, 2009, which was won by Malam Bacai Sanhá.
Guinea-Bissau is a republic. In the past, the government had been highly centralized, and multiparty governance has been in effect since mid-1991. The president is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government. At the legislative level, there is a unicameral "Assembleia Nacional Popular" (National People's Assembly) made up of 100 members. They are popularly elected from multi-member constituencies to serve a four-year term. At the judicial level, there is a "Tribunal Supremo da Justiça" (Supreme Court) which consists of nine justices appointed by the president, they serve at the pleasure of the president.
The current President of Guinea-Bissau is Malam Bacai Sanhá of the PAIGC (Partido da Africa Independencia da Guine-Bissau e Cape Verde) one of two major political parties in Guinea-Bissau along with the PRS (Partido Renovacao Social) and alongside over twenty smaller parties. In the 2009 election to replace the assassinated Vieira, Sanhá was the presidential candidate of the PAIGC while Kumba Iala, was the presidential candidate of the PRS. Following the a runoff was declared winner of the second round by the CNE (Comite Nacional da Eleicoes was sworn in as president on September 8, 2009.
Until March 2009 João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira was President of Guinea-Bissau. Elected in 2005 as an independent candidate, being declared winner of the second round by the CNE (Comite Nacional da Eleicoes). Vieira returned to power in 2005 after winning the presidential election only six years after being ousted from office during a civil war. Previously, he held power for 19 years after taking power in 1980 in a bloodless coup. In that action, he toppled the government of Luís Cabral. He was killed on March 2, 2009, possibly by soldiers in retaliation for the killing of the head of the joint chiefs of staff, General Batista Tagme Na Waie. This did not trigger additional violence, but there were signs of turmoil in the country, according to the advocacy group swisspeace.
* autonomous sector
At 36,125 square kilometres (13,948 sq mi), Guinea-Bissau is larger in size than Taiwan, Belgium, or the U.S. state of Maryland. This small, tropical country lies at a low altitude; its highest point is 300 metres (984 ft). The interior is savanna, and the coastline is plain with swamps of Guinean mangroves. Its monsoon-like rainy season alternates with periods of hot, dry harmattan winds blowing from the Sahara. The Bijagos Archipelago extends out to sea.
|Cities in Guinea-Bissau|
|1979 Census||2005 estimate|
Guinea-Bissau is warm all year around and there is little temperature fluctuation; it averages 26.3 °C (79.3 °F). The average rainfall for Bissau is 2024 mm although this is almost entirely accounted for during the rainy season which falls between June and September/October. From December through April, the country experiences drought.
Guinea-Bissau's GDP per capita is one of the lowest in the world. Its Human Development Index is also one of the lowest on earth. More than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. The economy depends mainly on agriculture; fish, cashew nuts and ground nuts are its major exports. A long period of political instability has resulted in depressed economic activity, deteriorating social conditions, and increased macroeconomic imbalances.
Guinea-Bissau has started to show some economic advances after a pact of stability was signed by the main political parties of the country, leading to an IMF-backed structural reform program. The key challenges for the country in the period ahead would be to achieve fiscal discipline, rebuild public administration, improve the economic climate for private investment, and promote economic diversification. After becoming independent from Portugal in 1974 due to the Portuguese Colonial War and the Lisbon's Carnation Revolution, the exodus of the Portuguese civilian, military and political authorities brought tremendous damage to the country's economic infrastructure, social order and standard of living.
After several years of economic downturn and political instability, in 1997, Guinea-Bissau entered the CFA franc monetary system, bringing about some internal monetary stability. The civil war that took place in 1998 and 1999 and a military coup in September 2003 again disrupted economic activity, leaving a substantial part of the economic and social infrastructure in ruins and intensifying the already widespread poverty. Following the parliamentary elections in March 2004 and presidential elections in July 2005, the country is trying to recover from the long period of instability despite a still-fragile political situation.
Beginning around 2005, drug traffickers based in Latin America began to use Guinea-Bissau, along with several neighboring West African nations, as a transshipment point to Europe for cocaine. The nation was described by a United Nations official as being at risk for becoming a "narco-state".The government and the military did almost nothing to stop this business. In 2009 nearly all transports via Guinea Bissau have been stopped and translocated to Mali.
Guinea-Bissau is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).
Bus in downtown Bissau
Che Guevara Square
Residential area in Bissau
Carnival in Bissau
The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse and has many distinct languages, customs, and social structures. Guinea-Bissauans can be divided into the following three ethnic groups: Fula and the Mandinka-speaking people, who comprise the largest portion of the population and are concentrated in the north and northeast; the Balanta and Papel people, who live in the southern coastal regions; and the Manjaco and Mancanha, who occupy the central and northern coastal areas. Most of the remainder are mestiços of mixed Portuguese and African descent, including a Cape Verdean minority.
Portuguese natives comprise a very small percentage of Guinea-Bissauans. This deficit was directly caused by the exodus of Portuguese settlers that took place after Guinea-Bissau gained independence. The country has also a tiny Chinese population, including those of mixed Portuguese and Chinese ancestry from Macau, a former Asian Portuguese colony. Only 14% of the population speaks the official language Portuguese. 44% speak Kriol, a Portuguese-based creole language, and the remainder speaks native African languages. Most Portuguese and Mestiços speak one of the African languages and Kriol as second languages. French is also learned in schools, as the country is surrounded by French-speaking countries and is a full member of the Francophonie.
Throughout the 20th century, most Bissau-Guineans practiced some form of Animism. Recently, many more have adopted Islam, which is currently practiced by 40-50 percent of the country's population; most of Guinea-Bissau's Muslims practice Sunni Islam. Approximately 10 percent of the country's population belong to the Christian community, and 40 percent continue to hold Indigenous beliefs. These statistics can be misleading, however, as both Islamic and Christan practices may be largely influenced and enriched by syncretism with traditional African beliefs.
There are about 12 physicians per 100,000 persons in the country. The prevalence of HIV-infection among the adult population is above 10 %. Guinea-Bissau has a high infant mortality. Life expectancy at birth among both sexes was at below 50 years in 2004.
The music of Guinea-Bissau is usually associated with the polyrhythmic gumbe genre, the country's primary musical export. However, civil unrest and other factors have combined over the years to keep gumbe, and other genres, out of mainstream audiences, even in generally syncretist African countries.
The calabash is the primary musical instrument of Guinea-Bissau, and is used in extremely swift and rhythmically complex dance music. Lyrics are almost always in Guinea-Bissau Creole, a Portuguese-based creole language, and are often humorous and topical, revolving around current events and controversies, especially AIDS.
The word gumbe is sometimes used generically, to refer to any music of the country, although it most specifically refers to a unique style that fuses about ten of the country's folk music traditions. Tina and tinga are other popular genres, while extent folk traditions include ceremonial music used in funerals, initiations and other rituals, as well as Balanta brosca and kussundé, Mandinga djambadon, and the kundere sound of the Bissagos Islands.
Flora Gomes is an internationally renowned film director; his most famous film is Nha Fala.
Education is compulsory from the age of 7 to 13. The enrollment of boys is higher than that of girls. Child labor is very common. A significant minority of the population are illiterate. Guinea-Bissau has universities.
|Government||Republic, multiparty since mid-1991|
|Currency||Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)|
|Area||total: 36,120 km2
water: 8,120 km2
land: 28,000 km2
|Population||1,442,029 (July 2006 est.)|
|Language||Portuguese (official), Crioulo, African languages|
|Religion||Indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%|
Guinea-Bissau is a former Portuguese colony bordered by Senegal to the north and Guinea to the south and east. Guinea-Bissau's post-independence history has been chequered. A civil war in 1998, followed by the imposition of a military junta in 1999 has been replaced with a multi-party democracy. The economy remains fragile, however hopes are high.
Guinea-Bissau is divided into 8 regions (regiões) and 1 autonomous sector (sector autónomo), and are subdivided into 37 sectors.
The regions include:
The US Department of State claims that there is no clear way of obtaining a visa for Guinea-Bissau. No Guinea-Bissau embassies have websites to obtain entry info. To complicate matters more, the GB "Diplomatic Representation" in Washington is "temporarily closed" (since Jan. 2007 & current as of Feb. 2009) and the US embassy in Bissau is closed. Visa-seekers are advised to visit the GB Embassies in either Dakar, Senegal or Lisbon, Portugal for visas. The US embassy in Dakar doubles as an embassy to GB. You can get a visa for €20 upon arrival at the airport.
Direct flights from Portugal with TAP  every Friday, returning same day. There is a daily Air Senegal flight  from Dakar, Senegal to Bissau and back. Air Senegal has a website that publishes its schedule.
There are no trains in Guinea-Bissau
There are no international boat routes in Guinea-Bissau - only boats to and between the Bijagos islands.
In Bissau minibuses called toca-toca work for transports within the city. There are also regular taxis. For inter-city travel there are sept-places, (seven-seat Peugeot) and candongas, big commercial vehicles carrying ten to twenty passengers. Prefer sept-place or at least try to get the front seats. It is also possible to rent taxis to other towns and cities.
The main bus-station "paragem" of Bissau is situated behind the BCEAO (Banco Central dos Estados de África Ocidental) on the Airport Road. Are you heading for Biombo or Prabis, you need to go to another bus-station in Estrada de Bor. There are no time-schedules; cars leave when they are full. As most locals travel in the early morning (7.00 a.m.-ish), cars fill up quicker in the morning. It might be hard to get transport in late afternoon and evening.
To go to the islands, there's a choice between cheap, but rather unsafe, canoas (pirogues) leaving from Porto Pidjiguiti or Porto de Bandim, and expensive modern boats owned by french fishing lodges on the Bijagos islands. In 2007 a ferry started sailing between Bissau and Bubaque, leaving Friday and returning Sunday. Schedules depend on tides, so check in advance.
As Guinea Bissau is very flat and there is virtually no traffic on the roads outside Bissau, it's a good country for cycling. Bikes can be bought in the country, but will probably be chinese bikes of rather poor quality. (They last 10 miles or 10 minutes: whichever comes first.)
Portuguese is the official language and the language used for writing, however creole is the language spoken among the locals. There are several local languages such as Fula, Balanta, Mandinka, Pepel, Bijago etc. But you will always find people who speak English and, of course, French from other African countries(The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Mauretania, Nigeria). You can buy a Creole/English dictionary at the WEC Mission which is in Caracol.
In December 2007 the first ATM's arrived to the country of Guinea-Bissau - in the BAO (Banco da Africa Occidental) branches of Bissau and Gabú. An ATM is also being set up in the Hotel Malaika in Bissau. These ATM's only function if you have a local account with that bank. So, leave your credit card/bank card at home because it will do you no good. Probably still safest to bring euros or FCFA enough to cover the time you plan to stay. Western Union is present in Bissau (eight locations), Bafatá, Gabú, Buba, Canchungo and Mansoa. (They will rip you off by taking 10%.)
The largest market in the country is Bandim Market, which is on the main road going into town. You can buy many things there and the atmosphere is nice. Otherwise there are small vendors on most roads of the capital. In the villages (Tabankas) you will also find small vendors selling the necessities. In the main towns in the countryside there are larger markets called "Lumo", which give farmers and merchants the possibility to sell/trade their goods. Don't forget that Guinea-Bissau is a poor country and as such the possibilities for shopping are smaller than in the Gambia or Senegal.
Useful creole shopping phrases: Ke ku bu misti? (what do you want?) N mistil (I want it) N ka mistil (I don't want it)
Most Guineans eat rice with fish, because the country is rich in fish, and rice (homegrown or imported from Thailand) is relatively cheap. The more costly meals contain beef, goat, chicken or pork. Meals are also made with palm oil and peanut sauces and diverse vegetables. Guineans also eat wild/game meat (deer, monkey, beaver etc.) but these animals are considered to be in danger of extinction and so it is not recommended to support this. Guineans are known for their warm heartedness and so you will always be asked to come have a bit with a group of people (it is common to eat from a large bowl)..."bin kume, no kume"
Fruit available depends on the season, but mangos, papayas, oranges, grape fruits, bananas, cashews and peanuts are abundant. Also try the sour "fole" fruits and the baobab fruit juice (sumo de cabaceira). Imported fruit can be bought in "fera de prasa" in the center of Bissau (apples, pears, pineapples, watermelons etc) but is more expensive than in Europe.
Vegetables sold in the markets include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, parsley, okra, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, chili, sweet potatoes.
Street snacks are typically sandwiches with hardboiled egg, omelete, fish or beef - or donuts, cake or hardboiled eggs. Frozen juice in small plastic bags is popular among locals.
The people of Guinea-Bissau love to drink a sweet green tea known as "warga", the non-muslims also enjoy drinking cashew wine or palm wine. There are also possibilities to buy Portuguese beer, wine and soft drinks but these are more expensive. It is recommended that foreigners only drink bottled, filtered or boiled water.
Hotels in Bissau are generally overpriced - but some hotels were undergoing renovation in 2007, giving hope for more competition and lower prices.
In most of the towns outside the capital, there are possibilities to find hotels or other rentable rooms.
There are also mainly french-run hotels on the Bijagos islands which are recommendable.
There are numerous NGO's, missionaries and international organizations (UN, EU, WHO, UNICEF, The Global Fund) working in Guinea Bissau.
You must be careful around the wildlife because they may be dangerous and you must respect the animals at all times. Do not attempt to feed or touch an animal. Remember: Take nothing but photos, Leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time. Having fun and being safe makes your trip the best it can be.
Before traveling, make sure you have the yellow fever, hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid vaccinations up to date. Malaria prophylaxis is highly recommended - consult a medical doctor for advice on which type to choose.
Depending on the length and purpose of your stay, also consider vaccinations for typhoid fever, hepatitis B, rabies, meningitis and tuberculosis.
If bitten by a dog, cat, monkey or bat - seek a doctor as fast as possible, no matter if you've been vaccinated or not. Everybody needs post-exposure rabies prophylaxis - but if vaccinated beforehand, you'll need less vaccines. Rabies can be prevented with vaccines and immunoglubulin, but once the symptoms present, there is no cure and about 100% die.
Always use a condom when having sexual relations with new partners.
Make sure you drink only bottled/filtered water.
Muslims are very relaxed about their religion, and should not create any problems.
Some people (especially children) will ask you to take their photo, while others will get upset if you take photos - always ask in advance, if taking close-ups. Avoid taking photos of military installations without asking, though sometimes you'll be allowed to.
There are numerous internet cafés in the center of Bissau, but ask around, more of them are hard to spot from outside. Other options are Lenox or go wireless in Restaurant Phoenicia or hotel Bissau Palace.
There are three mobile companies in Guinea Bissau all with prepaid mobile cards, that can be bought all over. It's easy to call abroad or other mobiles of the same company, but can be hard to call from one company to another (e.g. MTN->Guinétel).
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Declension of Guinea-Bissau (type rosé)
[[File:|thumbnail|right|Where Guinea-Bissau is in the World]] Guinea-Bissau is a country in Africa. The official language is Portuguese, and the capital is Bissau. About 1,442,000 people live in Guinea-Bissau as of 2006.
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